12 June 2018

Nigeria: Between Strong Economy and National Security

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A country with a weak economy is also insecure from military invasion from other countries and is unable to effectively negate the effect of economic or political sanctions placed by other nations.

Economic sanctions typically come in the form of tariffs on goods and services produced in a country or the inability to freely and openly trade with other nations, while political sanctions could include barring entry by individuals from another country, unless a barred individual can demonstrate an urgent humanitarian need.

In the worst cases, sanctions are endorsed by the UN Security Council and have a global foot print.

Countries that have been subject to global economic sanctions include South Africa, Iran and North Korea and in each instance, the sanctioned country has eventually capitulated and sought to negotiate relief.

Political sanctions are more uncommon, but those Nigerians on the list of Politically Exposed People, used to pressure the Abacha regime, know all about it.

Sanctions imposed by individual countries are not as potent, as those sanctioned by the UN Security Council, as will likely be the case of the recent sanctions the U.S. unilaterally imposed on Iran, after exiting the Iran Nuclear deal, unless it is able to gain the support of China, Russia, France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

However, a country with Nigeria's level of economic power and capability, may be unable to offset the potency of sanctions imposed by a single powerful country and may be unable to obtain the support of a permanent member of the UN Security Council should a powerful country, seek to impose a global sanction.

Clearly, there is no suggestion that Nigeria is a target for an individual nation or global sanction but an argument that Nigeria should hasten the process of implementing policies that will strengthen its economy to provide independence in decision making and greater national security.

This means implementing policies, and inculcating values and norms that are consistent with models proven to be aligned with strong and sustainable economic power.

The critical policies are those that in a two-pronged process, develop and sustain a broad skill's based workforce with a capacity to manufacture and assemble products and to deliver quality services and over time, the ability to move up value chains to become an innovation capable economy.

The United States, Japan, South Korea, Canada, Australia and other western economic powers have successfully navigated this path, while China is now rapidly becoming a broad-based innovation-capable country.

At the moment, the accurate number of skilled workers, machinists, lathe machine workers and the like, is unknown.

However, Nigeria's output of manufactured and assembled products and the volume and quality of services produced by the country, clearly points to well below optimal numbers, relative to the potential suggested by population size and natural resource base. And that is a long-term national security problem!

Though the policy solutions are obvious and well-tested, their implementation requires a high level of focus and a commitment and to using the budget as a tool for financing the long-term strategic outcomes required for economic resiliency and competitiveness.

Creating a critical mass of well-trained and skilled workers, engineers, managers, computer scientists, physicists, mathematicians, statisticians, chemists, nurses, doctors and their instructors, requires years of investment in the requisite curricula.

It requires a leadership that prioritizes and fully implements a technical over liberal arts education mindset, which an examination of budgets and their implementation, demonstrates has not been the Nigerian experience in at least thirty years.

It requires prioritizing engineering and technical vocations and the training of qualified elementary, secondary and vocational teachers to create a skilled and capable workforce over corruption and grandiose projects.

It requires spending oil and gas revenues in a direction and manner that is consistent with an ability to diversify the economy and becoming a producer of a range of goods and services that can compete with those made anywhere in the world.

It requires an enabling political system and governance structure that has proven to be difficult to implement in real terms.

How will a governor be convinced, that the best political and economic solution for his or her state, is not to self-select and then use the machinery of government to enthrone a successor?

How will a political party be convinced that merit and not rotation is the best way for contestants for political office to emerge?

possible is it when tribe and tongue differ so greatly, to eliminate the rotation of political power that destroys or emasculates paths to political office that based on merit?

How difficult will it be for the rich and powerful politician to take pleasure in funding political parties and office seeking pathways that lead to the success of his or her political party, rather than acting as a godfather, actively placing cronies into political offices for reasons that suggest a god-like image or just plain insensitivity to the greater good?

How is it that the political practices Nigeria has come to embrace for office seeking, are not the practices of successful countries, including politically communist China?

Could there be a relationship between these practices, governance quality, slow growth and many of the systematic ailments that are so obvious in the country?

Ijose is a policy analyst based in the United States of America.

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